Pacific Coast Highway 10 Day Itinerary Ideas

By Kay S
Last Updated

If you have 10 days to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, then you can see many of the best stops along the road as well as spend a lot of time in the most scenic sections of the Pacific Coast Highway including gorgeous Big Sur. 

With 10 days in hand, you have so many options. Simply choose your start and endpoint from the big cities of San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco and follow the coast in your preferred direction. Or go north from San Francisco, escaping city life and deep into the redwood forests of Northern California.

Since you have longer than a week, you need not even keep yourself restricted to California. Combine hipster cities of San Francisco and Portland in one epic road trip. Or explore the Oregon coast or the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Or drive from Portland to Seattle and see everything in between for a memorable Pacific Northwest Road trip. 

Whichever itinerary you choose, on your Pacific Coast Highway road trip, you are assured beautiful views along the coast, gorgeous beaches and lighthouses, dramatic natural attractions, and fresh seafood!

Here are a few itinerary ideas on how to spend 10 days on the Pacific Coast Highway.  

Itinerary 1: San Francisco to San Diego for beach worshippers

One way is to make the stunning drive down the coast from San Francisco but instead of ending at Los Angeles, drive all the way down to La Jolla and San Diego. You will see plenty of charming beach towns and get to visit the best beaches in California. 

We recommend starting this trip in San Francisco and checking out the city’s highlights such as Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, and Fisherman’s Wharf. Enjoy the restaurant scene, shopping, and nightlife in the city. 

The next day, drive down the coast and visit Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, before visiting Monterey. See major tourist attractions in Monterey including Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, ad the 17 Mile Drive. 

Then spend some time in idyllic Big Sur. This is one of the most beautiful stretches of the California coast and a total delight. Go hiking in Limekiln State Park and photograph the beautiful Bixby Creek Bridge. See the college town of San Luis Obispo before reaching Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.

Enjoy the charming life and big-city glamor in LA. Tour the movie studios, visit celebrity homes, and see the Hollywood Walk of Fame. See the museums and spend a day or two in Anaheim hitting Disney theme parks. 

End your trip driving down the coast of southern California all the way to San Diego. Enjoy the beaches at Dan Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, and La Jolla before reaching San Diego. In the city, enjoy the Historic Old Town, Gaslamp Quarters, and Balboa Park. 

Read our post on Driving the PCH from San Francisco to San Diego to plan this road trip. 

Itinerary 2: Los Angeles to Avenue of the Giants for redwood seekers

Another excellent option for a 10 day PCH road trip itinerary is to start your trip in the city of Los Angeles and then follow the road north all the way up to San Francisco and Leggett. While this route does not follow our preferred direction of north to south, the trip is definitely as charming as it gets.  

Follow the road all the way north and enjoy the scenery changes from sun-soaked humid southern California to fog-kissed windy northern California. Enjoy small beach towns along the way such as Pismo Beach, Morro Bay, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Half Moon Bay, Bodega, and Fort Bragg.

Travel along the California coast and visit all the redwoods including those in Big Sur, Muir Woods, and the Avenue of Giants in Northern California. The coastal redwoods in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park are the furthest south that they grow.

Enjoy the waterfalls and crashing waves in Big Sur, marvel at the marine life in Monterey, enjoy life in the Bay Area, hike to the lighthouse in Point Reyes, eat oysters at Tomales Bay, and stay in charming Mendocino. This road trip truly showcases the best that the California coast has to offer.

Read our post on California Coast Road Trip to plan this stunning drive along Highway 1 California.

Itinerary 3: Los Angeles to San Francisco for slow travelers

If you love slow travel and want to spend a lot of time in one destination hiking, kayaking, lounging on the beach, and exploring local restaurants, then consider spending the entire 10 days in central California on a Los Angeles to San Francisco Drive. 

This trip will give you ample time to spend a couple of days each in Los Angeles and San Francisco and enjoy the city attractions. Visit museums, see iconic attractions such as the Golden Gate bridge and Rodeo Drive, enjoy local farmers’ markets, and indulge in shopping. 

Along the Pacific Coast Highway 1, enjoy the famous attractions of McWay Falls and Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur. See the elephant seals in San Simeon and enjoy the highlights of Monterey. Discover tide pool creatures at Fitgerald Marine Reserve and go hiking in Point Lobos. 

This road trip is slow enough to give ample time to hidden attractions along the coast such as the Danish town of Solvang, California’s Channel islands in the Pacific Ocean, Hearst Castle in San Simeon, the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, and beautiful Garrapatta State Park. Tour the lighthouses along the coast and go on a whale-watching cruise. 

Stay in sleep coastal communities such as Carmel-by-the-Sea, Cayucos, and Pacific Grove. Go ATV riding in Oceano Dunes and surf the waves in Half Moon Bay. See a stunning sunset at Pigeon Point.  

Read our post on Los Angeles to San Francisco Drive to plan this road trip. 

Itinerary 4: Northern California Coast Road Trip

If you have seen most of central and southern California, then consider our amazing Northern California coast road trip itinerary. Start your trip in San Francisco and drive all the way north along Highway 1 and Highway 101 to the Oregon border. 

After enjoying San Francisco’s big-city attractions, make your way north to the windiest place on the continent, Point Reyes. See the lighthouse and hike along the coast before visiting the charming towns of Mendocino and Fort Bragg.

See California’s famous glass beach – be sure not to pick up any glass – and ride the skunk train. Go hiking in Mendocino Headlands State Park, photograph the charming bridge in Russian Gulch, and see the pygmy forest in Van Damme.

Drive through the redwood tree at Chandelier and see the Avenue of the Giants. Visit the Loleta Cheese Factory and explore the charming city of Eureka. See Redwood National and State Parks and hike in Fern Canyon before ending your trip in underrated Crescent City. 

Read our post on Northern California Road Trip to plan this amazing journey along the PCH. 

Itinerary 5: Oregon Coast Road Trip

Or you can even make a memorable San Francisco to Portland road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway 101 for an exciting adventure. If you do not want to cover all that distance, then consider just driving Highway 101 in Oregon.

Either fly to Eugene, bend, or Portland and begin your trip there. The main highlights are the coastal attractions in southern, central, and northern Oregon. The Oregon coast is quite different from the California coast in several ways. In the southern part, you will find the coastal redwoods while in northern Oregon, you will find sea stacks. Central Oregon has some of the largest sand dunes in the country. 

In southern Oregon, the highlight is the Samuel H Boardman Scenic Byway. You could easily spend hours in this 12 mile stretch of the coast: it’s filled with exciting hikes, natural rock formations, beautiful views, tidepools, and lots of photo ops. 

In central Oregon, you will find the beautiful Tillamook County. Visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook and drive along the scenic Three Capes Scenic Loop which leads to stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. 

In northern Oregon, you can visit the beautiful Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park. Take a photo of the iconic Haystack Rock of Oregon. Then explore the northernmost town of Astoria, located at the mouth of the Columbia River before ending your trip in the energetic and unique city of Portland. 

Read our post on Oregon Coast Road Trip to plan this amazing adventure along Beaver State’s coast. 

Itinerary 6: Olympic Peninsula Loop Road Trip, Washington

For a very unique and different Pacific Coast Highway road trip, consider skipping California and even Oregon in favor of Washington. Pacific Coast Highway 101 loops around the entire Olympic peninsula and gives access to some of the best attractions in Washington state. 

The coastline here is very vivid and dramatic and can frequently compete with that in Big Sur. You will find foggy coves and lighthouses, beautiful beaches that can be reached only via hiking, secluded trails, Cape Flattery the northwesternmost point in the continental US, and even hot springs. 

While there are no redwood trees here, you will find moss-covered branches of towering evergreens in the Hof Rainforest. The trees here grow as lush, wide, and tall as the coastal redwoods. The beaches are covered in driftwood and sea stacks are a common reminder of the volcanic nature of the coastline. 

You will find beautiful lakes such as Lake Quinalt and Lake Crescent right along the Pacific Coast Highway 101. Then visit the gorgeous mountain ranges in the center of the Olympic Peninsula. Here you will find the Hurricane Ridge area of the Olympic National Park. Hike on wildflower-covered trails and see the iconic ranges.

Visit charming towns on the peninsula including Port Angeles and Port Townsend. End your trip in the urban areas of Seattle and Tacoma. See Seattle’s Space Needle, visit the original Starbucks, and enjoy the Capitol Hill neighborhood. 

Read our post on the Olympic Peninsula Loop Road Trip to plan this epic itinerary. 

Itinerary 7: Pacific Northwest Road Trip

If you have got your sights set on the Pacific Northwest, then make the amazing road trip from Portland to Seattle via the Olympic peninsula. Enjoy Portland’s attractions including the Japanese garden, Pittock Mansion, and Voodoo doughnuts. 

Take a day trip out to see the beautiful Multnomah Falls and the Columbia River Gorge Natural Scenic Area. These are iconic attractions of the Pacific Northwest and must-visit. Take an entire day to drive the Historic Columbia River Scenic Highway to Mount Hood and see other waterfalls in the area too.

Then follow the Pacific Coast Highway 101 north along the West Coast and enjoy amazing sights such as Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Astoria, Lake Quinalt, Ruby Beach, Hoh Rainforest, and the Olympic National Park before reaching Tacoma and Seattle. 

Visit Olympia along the way and see the Washington State capitol. Enjoy the museums and zoo in Tacoma. Enjoy the highlights of Seattle including the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and Chihuly Garden and Glass. Take a day trip to the San Juan Islands or to Bainbridge Island. 

End your trip in the North Cascades National Park or see beautiful Mount Rainier. Experience first hand the stunning beauty of the mountain ranges of the Pacific Northwest. See why they have some of the best hikes in teh country and outstanding views of glacier-covered peaks. 

Read our post on Pacific Northwest Road Trip to plan this memorable West Coast trip along the Pacific Coast Highway. 

Other useful posts to plan your Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

Pacific Coast Highway 4 day Itinerary
Pacific Coast Highway 5 day itinerary
Pacific Coast Highway 7 day itinerary
All PCH Itineraries
Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Planner
Best Places to Stay along the Pacific Coast Highway
Best Pacific Coast Highway Stops

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